Home > The Saint (Gentlemen Rogues #2)

The Saint (Gentlemen Rogues #2)
Author: Nana Malone

 

CHAPTER 1

KAYA

 

 

Chaos had a way of finding you.

It didn't matter what you did to avoid it. It could ferret you out, glom onto you, and worm its way into your soul.

That was one lesson I'd learned when Mum disappeared.

If you were prone to chaos, you would never shake it.

Which was why I was currently hiding in the library stacks at my university. University of West London had a decent library. It wasn't enormous though, so hiding was only a temporary solution.

The journals and tomes stacked on ancient wood were only going to shield me for so long.

And sooner or later, I was going to need to either run or ovary up and deal with the situation.

This is what you get for not shooting him down hard when you sensed he’d started to develop feelings.

Admittedly, I'd had my hands full over the last few weeks with the anniversary of Mum's disappearance and critique week rapidly approaching for photography class.

My mind was a muddle of emotions, or I would have seen this coming.

I'd started to sense something was off with the Force for weeks. But I thought I could maneuver around it, pretend it wasn't happening. But now, here we were. Me, hiding in the stacks. Andrew, no doubt, using the Friends Locate app on our phones to find me.

I liked my privacy. Normally, I wouldn’t like people knowing where I was all the time, but my past had taught me that maybe it would be a good idea if even just one person would come looking for me if I vanished off the face of the earth. I just never thought it would be used against me.

My only saving grace was that just like Andrew could see me, I could see him. He was along the other end cap by the far end of the stacks and closing in. I had to wait. Bide my time until he was just close enough.

This was dumb. I should be able to just tell him. To say the words.

You know full well you'll break his heart.

I didn't like lying. I didn't like hiding. Matter of fact, as an adult, it was very much my mantra to always tell the truth. Except in cases like this when I knew it would hurt someone. One of the few people I actually had in my life.

I didn't want to lose that.

I waited until he made it to the end stack and then turned toward me. And then I hit Location Off and bolted for the door. I would deal with this later.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this wasn't a thing. Maybe it was like all those stories that I’d concocted in my head about my parents when I’d been in care. Fantasies.

I bolted out the side door of the library, my heart rate not even ticking up, despite the adrenaline. My breathing was nice and steady and even. What was always interesting was that when I was in situations where I should be panicked or afraid, I never was. I always had this analytical approach to everything. Maybe that's why I was no good in relationships.

No, you're fine in relationships; you just don't want one.

Okay, there was that too. Relieved that I'd managed to escape without hurting Andrew today, I still knew that I had to come up with a proper plan of attack.

Andrew was a mate, but about a month ago I'd seen that look in his eyes. The one that told me he wanted something more.

Our friendship was important to me, and I didn't want to ruin it. I knew he wouldn't understand that I couldn't be with anyone or that it really had more to do with me than it did him. Even if he recovered quickly, our easy camaraderie would change.

I had done everything I could think of.

I’d made a point to refer to him as one of my best mates and point out that I was not looking for a relationship.

Our other best mate, Gemma Bloom, had also tried to dissuade him. And I thought maybe she’d gotten through to him, but apparently not.

Finally free of the library, I jogged down the main steps and headed to the cafe to meet Gemma, but suddenly, I stopped short.

Andrew.

How the fuck had he gotten out of the library quickly enough to meet me on the stairs?

The bright sunny smile he gave me made my stomach knot.

I was out of time.

“Hey, Kaya! Just the girl I was looking for. I was going to come and meet you and Gemma at the cafe after I retrieved my phone from my mate Carly. I left it in class and she grabbed it for me.“

So, you’ve been avoiding a perfectly innocuous Carly in the library. Not Andrew.

“Oh, yeah? Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to chat today. I’m headed straight for the center.“

I worked at a center for displaced women and children several hours a week. It was a temporary stop before we could find them more permanent placement. Unfortunately, it meant a lot of kids were displaced from school. And even if they did have work they could do, they didn’t have their usual support networks.

My job was to provide some of that support. Helping kids with homework, playing video games, doing art projects. I loved it, but it took a lot of my time. Ruined a lot of nights out.

He licked his lips nervously. “Okay. I just wanted to ask you about my department’s drinks meetup this Friday. I know you said you might come.“

I tried not to grind my teeth. Saying I might go was being generous. I had said something along the lines of ‘That sounds like fun.’ I knew a myriad of ways to get out of things.

After all, I’d had lots of practice. I knew how to appear just available enough but never too available. Friendly, but not looking to make friends. I kept my circle small. These were tricks of the trade I’d learned young.

“Did I?“

He gave me a sheepish smile. “Okay, maybe not, but it’ll be fun. And you never go out or do anything fun.“

“Not true. You, Gems, and I went out on Wednesday. We had pizza and a pint, remember?“

“Yeah, but that was a study group thing.“

Everyone had to take a basic coding class before they graduated. And Gemma and I had opted to take it this year, our second year, to try and get it out of the way. Andrew had taken the course the year before, so he had helped us.

“Andrew, I’m sorry I can’t. I’m at the center on Friday.“

His brows furrowed. “They can do without you for one night. Besides, I’ve already told everyone you’re coming.“

I hated being put on the spot. It was my least favorite thing. Growing up, I’d never been allowed to tell the truth. I’d learned to tell half-truths and sneak about. So as a grown-up, I learned to love the truth.

“Andrew, I’m sorry. Why don’t you go with Gemma?“ The two of them would actually make a great couple. Someone like Gemma would be good for him. Not someone like me.

The furrow between his bushy brows sank even deeper. “Right. You know, for months I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to ask you out.“

And there it was, the truth of it, right there on the steps of the library.

And I didn’t want to look at it. “Andrew…“

“No, don’t. You act like you like me, but you’re just playing with me, aren’t you?“

Remember, you don’t want to hurt him.

I had to give myself that reminder because the sharper thought on my tongue would eviscerate him.

“Andrew, I’ve always been very clear with you that we’re mates. I’ve always been very clear with you that I’m not looking for anything. Any kind of relationship, have I not?”

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